If you’re planning to travel for the holidays, several questions might pop into your head: What is the best time to get a good deal on a flight? Are there certain gifts you can’t bring through TSA? What do you do if your flight gets delayed or canceled?
There are many steps travelers can take in order to enhance their travel experience and make sure their trip goes as smoothly as possible (at least, when it comes to things you can control) this holiday season.
Here’s a look at some ways you can make your trip better, provided by NBC’s senior consumer and investigative correspondent Vicky Nguyen, when it comes to matters concerning your wallet, your time — and your angst.
Apps and websites to use for holiday travel deals
There are plenty of tools travelers can use when booking a trip, especially for those who are flexible with travel dates.
Hopper, an app that offers savings on airlines, hotels, homes and car rentals, says prices rise 5-10% each day from the middle of October until Christmas, so the sooner you book for the holidays, the better.
Kayak has a Best Time to Travel tool that lets users figure out the best time to take a trip, based on departure and arrival locations as well as the length (4-day trip, 7-day trip or 14-day trip). From there, Kayak will share the best month to fly and provide a cost breakdown.
“Our recommendation on which month to travel is calculated based on the presented four factors: average flight prices, popularity, average temperature, and average precipitation,” Kayak writes on their website.
Google’s Explore tool is a similar alternative that enables people to type in where they are departing from and when they want to travel to find the cheapest flights. You can have a destination in mind, or you can select “anywhere” to figure out where you want to go.
Point.me is an online travel tool that lets users type in all their credit card and airline miles in order to obtain the best flight options by using points. While using Point.me comes with a charge, there’s a free trial to try before you buy.
Best dates to fly on Christmas
According to Hopper, the best time to depart for the holiday is Dec. 18 or Dec. 19. You can also save about 25% off peak prices if you depart on Christmas Day.
As far as returning, Hopper advises making the trek back in the middle of the week after the holiday. Dec. 28 is a notably cheap day to head home. It’s important not to book too close to the weekend, though, because prices will jump as travelers are coming back before New Year’s Eve.
Extra services available for flyers who are elderly or with disabilities
When booking a flight, see if extra assistance for seniors or those with disabilities is available, whether through the booking site, app or airline itself. Travelers, who can reserve wheelchairs from airlines free of charge, should also inform the gate agent they need early boarding.
Airlines usually check in devices that provide assistance, such as canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs or electric scooters, as a carry-on at no extra charge. If you have a device that runs on batteries that needs to be stowed away, take off any loose parts or parts that can be removed and tack on a laminated piece of paper directions explaining how to disassemble or fold it.
You can also ask to bring your items into the main cabin with you to make sure your assisted devices are protected. The Air Carrier Access Act states items like manual or collapsible wheelchairs, canes, walkers, medicine should take priority in the main cabin, opposed to being placed in the cargo bin.
Major airlines offer concierge services that can help the entire travel process, including getting baggage and getting into a car once you reach your destination. There are also private companies that provide these services.
What you can bring through TSA
The TSA says lines are slowed down most often by prohibited items in carry-on bags. Items that can spread, spill or spray will not be allowed, unless they are smaller than 3.4 ounces.
Here are some items that are fine to bring through TSA: unwrapped gifts, baby supplies (including breast milk or formula in containers/bottles, which can be larger than 3.4 ounces) and food, (including frozen goods), as long as the ice that’s packed with it is completely frozen when going through security.
What to do if your flight is canceled
We all dread the thought of our flight getting canceled, but it does happen. So, what should you do if your flight is grounded for good, and are there any preventative measures you can take to lessen the chances of it happening?
If you can, allow yourself some extra time and try to fly a day earlier than you need to. Make sure you download the MyTSA app and your airline’s app, and in the chance your flight is canceled, be ready to book a different flight. It’s also helpful to be flexible and consider going through a different airport, or booking another mode of transportation, like a train or car.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com
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